AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine loggers successfully used forest management techniques that protect water quality during a recent five-year period, a Maine Forest Service study shows.
Looking at 500 randomly selected harvest sites around the state, the study shows that between 2005 and 2009, loggers used the techniques known as “Best Management Practices,” or BMPs, at 84 percent of timber harvest sites to prevent sediment from entering water bodies, a Maine Department of Conservation press release said.
Sediment entering streams and other water bodies at harvest sites decreased from 17 percent of the sites in 2005 to 10 percent in 2009, according to Keith Kanoti, Maine Forest Service water resources forester, who conducted the survey.
“What we’ve found over these five years is that fewer harvest sites have sediment movement happening,” Kanoti said. “The current trend is we’re getting better, we’re seeing improvement. Most loggers are using some BMPs.”
“Clean water is one of Maine’s most important forest products,” said Donald Mansius, acting MFS director. “Well-managed forests such as those found in Maine do an outstanding job of protecting water quality. Keeping forests as forests and in active management helps maintain this vital resource for the current and future generations.”
The use of BMPs also can enhance business, according to Will and Don Cole, who operate Trees Ltd. in Sidney. The company has been using the harvesting techniques for 25 years.
“We’ve always used BMPs,” Will Cole said. “We use it as a selling point. It helps with the marketing of the wood.”
“It’s kind of a win-win for everyone,” Don Cole added.
About 5,000 timber harvests take place annually in Maine. Sediment infiltration into streams and other water bodies during timber harvesting can have detrimental environmental consequences, such as harming cold-water fisheries and drinking water, Kanoti pointed out.
BMPs are forest management techniques, such as using culverts and bridges and grading roads, developed cooperatively by the Maine Forest Service and the forest industry. BMP implementation protects water quality in Maine and meets federal Clean Water Act requirements, Kanoti said.
The Maine Forest Service offers free BMP training to loggers, plus a refresher course. MFS also works with the Certified Professional Logger and Qualified Logging Professional training programs to provide BMP training, Kanoti said. About 2,500 loggers, foresters and landowners have attended the MFS workshops since 2004.
Monitoring the use of BMPs first began in 2000, Kanoti said. The process became more standardized in 2005 and now allows for the tracking of trends, he noted.
“What we’d like to see at the end of the day is the result — is the water clean at the end of the logging job?” Kanoti said. “We teach the principles behind water quality protection and then the logger can select the best BMP to use at the site.”
Over the five-year period, 500 harvest sites, totaling 80,000 acres of land and 301 stream crossings were monitored, Kanoti said. The monitoring was done voluntarily with the permission of the landowners, with about 90 percent of requests approved, he said. The harvest sites also involved several hundred different contractors and varied from large to smaller amounts of acreage.
Kanoti said that if soil run-off is going to occur, it most likely happens at stream crossings. The best BMP compliance occurred, however, when the practices were included in the harvesting contract between landowner and contractor and responsibility was assigned, he said. If the MFS finds a problem at a harvest site, “we try to work cooperatively to fix things instead of turning it into an enforcement action,” the MFS forester said.
In a side note, Kanoti pointed out that more harvesting operations are dragging wood out of the forests, rather than carrying it out. The use of dragged wood systems has increased from 75 percent in 2005 to 90 percent in 2009, he said.
That style of operation creates a greater risk to water quality, but because BMPs are being used, the risk has been reduced, he said.
“The most important thing that I see is that the number of harvests that put sedimentation in water bodies has decreased over time,” he said. “Whatever loggers are doing is working, and we’re making slow, steady improvements.”
The complete report can be found at: http://www.maine.gov/doc/mfs/pubs/pdf/bmp_annual_rp/bmp_rpt_05_to_09.pdf.
For information or to obtain a hard copy of the report, contact Keith Kanoti, Maine Forest Service water resources forester, at 287-1073 or firstname.lastname@example.org.